I do not often talk explicitly about environmental issues on this blog but they are obviously something I care about deeply - as I feel anyone with a love for gardening should. There are many little individual actions all of us can and should take to help lessen humanity's disastrous impact on the world we call home - from recycling to conserving electricity to avoiding the use of harmful chemicals in our gardening and reducing excessive expanses of water-guzzling, bio-diversity free lawns. However, beyond all of these individual actions at the most local level how we treat our environment is first and foremost a political issue today.
A dhaak or palaash tree (Butea monosperma), well adapted to dry and extremely hot environments, stretching towards the evening sky in a neighborhood park in New Delhi
The political landscape of much of the world appears to have gone into a complete tailspin recently, from the reprehensible regime trying hard to do the absolute worst for everybody in the US to the crazy-eyed Thatcher wannabe seemingly obsessed with unfettered personal power determined to yank the UK out of Europe in as damaging a way as possible, to the complete and utter destruction of democracy under way in countries like Turkey, Venezuela, Hungary, and Poland. France might well join this bandwagon of political insanity with the election that begins tomorrow. Then of course there are places ravaged by outright war, like Syria and Yemen. What often falls by the wayside as we consider all of this is that it is also an environmental catastrophe in the making, as virtually all these populist and/or far-right and/or nationalist movements also show a complete disregard for environmental issues. There is the climate change denial, Exxon-exec-as-secretary-of-state and EPA-hater-as-head-of-EPA callousness of the US regime; there are environmental and consumer protection regulations the UK might lose in leaving the EU; there is the rise of the terrifying "Bullets, Beef, and Bible" faction in Brazil's current right-wing government that wants to turn even more of the Amazon into cow pasture, erasing both the biodiversity and indigenous populations that stand in their way; there is Indonesia burning even the last slivers of rainforest home to orang-utans and thousands of other species, enveloping much of Southeast Asia in noxious haze in the process, to feed global consumer culture's thirst for palm oil, amongst a society increasingly riven by religious extremism and ever more hostile to minorities; and the list goes on and on. Bad people are in power or trying to get into power in huge chunks of the world and just because they are busy doing awful things that immediately affect particular people we should not forget that they are also doing environmentally awful things that indirectly affect all of us, regardless of where in the world we are. Sadly, one also has to note that otherwise laudable governments can pursue environmentally questionable policies, as is the case with Justin Trudeau's current Canadian government and fossil fuels. Problems like climate change and many forms of pollution are global in scale and, while we can all do our part, ultimately need to also be addressed globally in a concerted manner. For that to happen, we all need to do what we can politically as well, by voting, organizing, being active and involved, and holding politicians accountable wherever possible. We need to support politics that actively link environmental well-being and the flourishing of human communities, rather setting them in opposition to each other, as is happening in far too many places today, and toward that end we need to strive to empathize with both people and nature both locally and globally.